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Patterns - a series of professional observations about package design practices within specific product categories

Low-Carb Lifestyle

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Patterns is a series of professional observations about package design practices within specific product categories - brought to you by the design team at R.BIRD.

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Featured in this report:

01 - Overview


Our observations include the brands and categories shown above. These products can be found in most retail supermarkets, nutritional and specialty stores nationally.

02 - Environment


The above images were taken at supermarkets and health food stores in the metropolitan New York City area. Low-carb products were originally found in specialty stores. Now they are found in just about every section of the supermarket. In some cases, there are dedicated sections of the supermarket for low-carb diet foods while some products are placed along side the original versions of the same brand.

Response: With the introduction of more low-carb foods or foods with carb-conscious claims, dedicated sections may become extinct, giving way to side-by-side placement for easy comparison and decision making. Low-carb products will have to stand out even more once they are added to the mix of mainstream products.

03 - Low-Carb Brands


Atkins is the most recognized brand of low-carb products. Other recognizable brands include Keto, Carb Fit and Carb Options. A host of sub-branded products from mainstream brands are gaining in popularity. Carb Options from Unilever Bestfoods taps into the popularity of existing brands, like, Skippy, Hellmann's, and Ragu.

Response: Some of the more authentic, health food brands need to pick up the slack in appetite appeal and brand presence now that they are faced with mainstream brands as competition. Carb Options has come out swinging with a bright color palette and more unified, consumer friendly look. The long-term battle for the hearts and minds of consumers between pure low-carb brands and sub-branded products from existing brands will bear watching.

04 - Sub-Brands


Some existing brands have extended their line of products with low-carb sub-brands. Relevant new names for products, such as, "Carb Well," "Carb Countdown," "Carb Control," and "Carb Counting" are among the pack.

Response: Creating sub-brands can be a safety feature that will allow products to be phased out if the low-carb craze loses popularity, leaving the master brand intact. It also takes advantage of brand loyalty with existing consumers, while attracting new consumers looking for low-carb products.

05 - Owning Color


"Carb Fit" and Atkins' "Endulge" have successfully taken the lead with recognizable colors to get consumer attention by using a coherent palette across their products. "Carb Options" has set the "blue" standard as the primary color for low-carb and others are following suit. Heinz, Entenmann's and Lean Cuisine are brands using the color blue in banners and flagging to signal low-carb.

Response: A marketing home run for Unilever Bestfoods and the color blue. A well conceived approach and strong color signal ties the entire suite of products together, no matter what category they're in. The blue color also suggests "light," & "healthy." New and existing brands should take into account the popularity of the color blue as the low-carb communicator and adjust their palettes accordingly -- for both their low-carb and mainstream products.

06 - Typestyle


Most products are communicated through the use of hand lettered, or italicized typography, suggesting a product that is fresh, active and tasty. These fonts appeal to the main decision maker when coming to purchasing foodstuffs, the female of the household.

Response: It's hard to say if angled script typography is a product of the carb specific design or a trend in consumer packaging across the board. It does convey an active, and healthy message; something all products want to communicate. The spontaneity in which the typography is rendered may also prompt an impulsive decision to purchase. Italics and scripts can be considered more feminine, friendly, and upscale as opposed to more authoritative roman or sans-serif fonts.

07 - Primary Communication


Differentiating with the use of the enormous red Atkins "A," a large number counting grams or carbs, or shouting the new carb product name is the primary attention-getter. Master brands take on a less significant role.

Response: With such fierce competition and a wave of new products hitting the shelves, subtle approaches will not cut the mustard. Marketing a low-carb product is done with a loud voice.

08 - Atkins Endorsement


Atkins has made its red "A" available for endorsement of other brands. This seal carries a lot of weight (pun intended) and is probably the most recognized symbol related to a low-carb diet.

Response: As a marketing tool, the symbol provides the authenticity and trust consumers require while maintaining a strict Atkins diet. It's a great plus for products that are typically high in carbs, such as baked goods and dairy. Referencing style and color from this symbol may be a way of attracting attention if marketers are unable to get an actual Atkins endorsement.

09 - Ambiguous Claims


In an effort to grab part of the carb category, many products make claims that would suggest an improved product. Some make you believe that they are low-carb by putting a big "0" number in the front of the package and burst that indicates "For The Carb Conscious" or "Counting Carbs?" Net carb claims are shrouded in controversy and provide no real benefit to the consumer. Even if the products have not been reformulated for reduced carbs, it can be marketed as part of a "low-carb lifestyle."

Response: FDA rules governing low-carb claims are unclear. Consumers may be easily seduced by packages that seem to be health conscious, yet are loaded with fat, or reduced in carbs through smaller serving sizes. As with any diet program, consumers must be educated about the diet program before simply buying low-carb products with the assumption that they are following a healthy regiment.

10 - Low-Key Low-Carb


Some brands have taken a low-key approach to low-carb marketing. Michelob Ultra is understated. Stouffer's Lean Cuisine, known for its diet conscious offerings, simply adds a flag with a carb count to its new recipes.

Response: In the case of these examples, the violator or descriptor can be removed without affecting the overall brand. This may prove to be a wise approach over the long term.

11 - Close-up Comparison


We put together a mainstream brand and its low-carb, sub-branded cousin, in this case, Skippy Creamy and Carb Options Skippy to see the differences and similarities.

Response: The Carb Options graphic structure is consistent with the other products in the Carb Options line. Skippy logo used for sub-branding is rather small, just large enough to be noticed. In this case, the color blue used on Carb Options is not too far from the shade of blue used on Skippy Creamy, and both brands share the same peanut butter illustration. Obvious differences between these two products, include typestyle, background color and pattern. Additionally, Carb Options has much more in the way of incidental graphics, like the Net Carbs burst, sell copy, and Splenda brandmark. The fun aspects of Skippy, notably, "Skip," do not make their way over to the Carb Options pack.

12 - Claim Formats


Since there are no clear regulations from the FDA in regard to how the amount of carbs are communicated, brands are taking advantage to capture the attention of buyers.

Response: A standardized system for describing what is a low or reduced-carb product, would be ideal. Consumers will identify more quickly what they are looking for without being mislead by "0g" or other subjective claims. Brands should be careful about how they portray the benefits of their products. Otherwise, they run the risk of being seen in a negative light for using dubious claims.

13 - Defensive Banners


Weight Watchers' Smart Ones is an example of a brand attempting to teach consumers that the low-carb lifestyle is not the only or best diet option. A significant portion of the back panel is devoted to explaining what Smart Ones considers to be the "Truth About Carbs." Other brands with traditionally high carb products are using the "Carb Conscious" or "Carb Counting" descriptor to appeal to low-carb dieters.

Response: Very good approach from Smart Ones because, too often, consumers follow diets without being well informed about how and why they work. This approach elevates the brand above the low-carb fray, while taking advantage of the opportunity to reach out to the low-carb consumer.


On September 9 Mel said...

What do you think about carb blockers flooding the market?

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Low-Carb, Diet Foods, Health Foods, Specialty Foods, Reduced Fat, Unique Claims, Brand Architecture, Endorsements, Sub-Branding, Color, Arnold, Atkins, Carb Conscious, Carb Control, Carb Countdown, Carb Counting, Carb Fit, Carb Options, Carb Solutions, Carb Well, Dannon, Dieters Advantage, Heinz, Keto, Kraft, Lean Cuisine, Morning Star, Mueller's, Reduced Carb, Skippy, Smart Ones

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